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Scum vs. Scum

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There is perhaps no better illustration of the deep decay of the American political system than the Senate race in New Jersey. Sen. Bob Menendez, running for re-election, was censured by the Senate Ethics Committee for accepting bribes from the Florida businessman Salomon Melgen, who was convicted in 2017 of defrauding Medicare of $73 million. The senator had flown to the Dominican Republic with Melgen on the physician's private jet and stayed in his private villa, where the men cavorted with young Dominican women who allegedly were prostitutes. Menendez performed numerous political favors for Melgen, including helping some of the Dominican women acquire visas to the United States. Menendez was indicted in a federal corruption trial but escaped sentencing because of a hung jury.

Menendez has a voting record as sordid as most Democrats. He supported the $716 billion military spending bill, along with 85 percent of his fellow Senate Democrats. He signed a letter, along with other Democratic leaders, calling for steps to extradite Julian Assange to stand trial in the United States. The senator, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, is owned by the lobby for Israel -- a country that routinely and massively interferes in our elections -- and supported moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. He helped cause the 2008 global financial crisis by voting to revoke Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law enacted to create a firewall between commercial and investment banks.

His Republican rival in the Senate race that will be decided Tuesday is Bob Hugin, whose reported net worth is at least $84 million. With Hugin as its CEO, the pharmaceutical firm Celgene made $200 million by conspiring to keep generic cancer drugs off the market, according to its critics. Celgene, a model of everything that is wrong with our for-profit health care system, paid $280 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a whistleblower who accused the firm of improperly marketing two drugs to treat several forms of cancer without getting Federal Drug Administration approval, thereby defrauding Medicare. Celgene, over seven years, also doubled the price of the cancer drug Revlimid to some $20,000 for a supply of 28 pills.

The Senate campaign in New Jersey has seen no discussion of substantive issues. It is dominated by both candidates' nonstop personal attacks and negative ads, part of the typical burlesque of American politics.

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Scum versus scum. That sums up this election season. Is it any wonder that 100 million Americans don't bother to vote? When all you are offered is Bob One or Bob Two, why bother? One-fourth of Democratic challengers in competitive House districts in this week's elections have backgrounds in the CIA, the military, the National Security Council or the State Department. Nearly all candidates on the ballots in House races are corporate-sponsored, with a few lonely exceptions such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, members of the Democratic Socialists of America who are running as Democrats.

The securities and finance industry has backed Democratic congressional candidates 63 percent to 37 percent over Republicans, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. Democratic candidates and political action committees have received $56.8 million, compared with Republicans' $33.4 million, the center reported. The broader sector of finance, insurance and real estate, it found, has given $174 million to Democratic candidates, against $157 million to Republicans. And Michael Bloomberg, weighing his own presidential run, has pledged $100 million to elect a Democratic Congress.

"In interviews with two dozen Wall Street executives, fund-raisers, donors and those who raise money from them, Democrats described an extraordinary level of investment and excitement from the finance sector," The New York Times reported about current campaign contributions to the Democrats from the corporate oligarchs.

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Our system of legalized bribery is an equal-opportunity employer.

Of course, we are all supposed to vote Democratic to halt the tide of Trump fascism. But should the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, hate speech and violence as a tool for intimidation and control will increase, with much of it directed, as we saw with the pipe bombs intended to decapitate the Democratic Party leadership, toward prominent Democratic politicians and critics of Donald Trump. Should the white man's party of the president retain control of the House and the Senate, violence will still be the favored instrument of political control as the last of democratic protections are stripped from us. Either way we are in for it.

Trump is a clownish and embarrassing tool of the kleptocrats. His faux populism is a sham. Only the rich like his tax cuts, his refusal to raise the minimum wage and his effort to destroy Obamacare. All he has left is hate. And he will use it. Which is not to say that, if only to throw up some obstacle to Trump, you shouldn't vote for the Democratic scum, tools of the war industry and the pharmaceutical and insurance industry, Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry, as opposed to the Republican scum. But Democratic control of the House will do very little to halt our descent into corporate tyranny, especially with another economic crisis brewing on Wall Street. The rot inside the American political system is deep and terminal.

The Democrats, who refuse to address the social inequality they helped orchestrate and that has given rise to Trump, are the party of racial and ethnic inclusivity, identity politics, Wall Street and the military. Their core battle cry is: We are not Trump! This is ultimately a losing formula. It was adopted by Hillary Clinton, who is apparently weighing another run for the presidency after we thought we had thrust a stake through her political heart. It is the agenda of the well-heeled East Coast and West Coast elites who want to instill corporate fascism with a friendly face.

Bertram Gross (1912-1997) in "Friendly Fascism: The New Face of American Power" warned us that fascism always has two looks. One is paternal, benevolent, entertaining and kind. The other is embodied in the executioner's sadistic leer. Janus-like, fascism seeks to present itself to a captive public as a force for good and moral renewal. It promises protection against enemies real and invented. But denounce its ideology, challenge its power, demand freedom from fascism's iron grip, and you are mercilessly crushed. Gross knew that if the United States' form of fascism, expressed through corporate tyranny, was able to effectively mask its true intentions behind its "friendly" face we would be stripped of power, shorn of our most cherished rights and impoverished. He has been proved correct.

"Looking at the present, I see a more probable future: a new despotism creeping slowly across America," Gross wrote. "Faceless oligarchs sit at command posts of a corporate-government complex that has been slowly evolving over many decades. In efforts to enlarge their own powers and privileges, they are willing to have others suffer the intended or unintended consequences of their institutional or personal greed. For Americans, these consequences include chronic inflation, recurring recession, open and hidden unemployment, the poisoning of air, water, soil and bodies, and more important, the subversion of our constitution. More broadly, consequences include widespread intervention in international politics through economic manipulation, covert action, or military invasion."

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No totalitarian state has mastered propaganda better than the corporate state. Our press has replaced journalism with trivia, feel-good stories, jingoism and celebrity gossip. The banal and the absurd, delivered by cheery corporate courtiers, saturate the airwaves. Our emotions are skillfully manipulated around manufactured personalities and manufactured events. We are, at the same time, offered elaborate diversionary spectacles including sporting events, reality television and absurdist political campaigns. Trump is a master of this form of entertainment. Our emotional and intellectual energy is swallowed up by the modern equivalent of the Roman arena. Choreographed political vaudeville, which costs corporations billions of dollars, is called free elections. Cliche'-ridden slogans, which assure us that the freedoms we cherish remain sacrosanct, dominate our national discourse as these freedoms are stripped from us by judicial and legislative fiat. It is a vast con game.

You cannot use the word "liberty" when your government, as ours does, watches you 24 hours a day and stores all of your personal information in government computers in perpetuity. You cannot use the word "liberty" when you are the most photographed and monitored population in human history. You cannot use the word "liberty" when it is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or General Dynamics. You cannot use the word "liberty" when the state empowers militarized police to use indiscriminate lethal force against unarmed citizens in the streets of American cities. You cannot use the word "liberty" when 2.3 million citizens, mostly poor people of color, are held in the largest prison system on earth. This is the relationship between a master and a slave. The choice is between whom we want to clamp on our chains -- a jailer who mouths politically correct bromides or a racist, Christian fascist. Either way we are shackled.

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Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

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13 people are discussing this page, with 29 comments  Post Comment


Patrick Walker

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As to "Scum vs. Scum," a two-paragraph quotation from the conclusion of my most recent article is HIGHLY pertinent (especially the words "American voters' only alternative to monsters is mobsters"):

"In a two-party system where neither party gives "a rat's ass" about climate justice, Americans who understand humanity's climate emergency face quite an impasse. Simply voting for a climate justice party like the Greens is not a solution; even as solid a radical leftist as Paul Street has come to see the distasteful urgency of lesser-evil voting. In writing of "the cult of Trump," Chris Hedges has pinpointed the intolerable nature of Republican evil: a party that has thrown reason overboard and become a cult is capable of any atrocity known to humankind. Spanish artist Goya's engraving title couldn't be more relevant: "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters." Monsters must be kept from controlling our government.

Regrettably, American voters' only alternative to monsters is mobsters: Democrat politicians who extort our votes by holding the gun of Republican monstrosity--especially monstrous climate change denial--to humanity's head. All this, while themselves committed to policies (like warmongering and fracking) perversely at odds with the desperately short timetable of climate action. In this article and my previous one, I've offered a solution based on electing Democrats and then organizing a Rats' Revolt to "rat out" their extortion scheme against climate justice and forcibly put an end to it."

Here's the whole article, even more radical than Hedges': https://www.opednews.com/ar...

Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 3:14:47 PM

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Robert Cowen

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I didn't see "climate change" mentioned in the article. Not important?

Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 3:21:05 PM

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Tom Huckin

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Reply to Robert Cowen:   New Content

Hedges uses the word "ecocide" in his next-to-last paragraph. Gross's book was published in the late 1980's when climate change was not yet a hot topic.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 3:44:55 PM

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kappie

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Chris hedges article says what a small minority like myself feel.there is no real difference between the 2 parties on economic issues or consitutional protections.Something i have been saying the last 2 years,the only difference between the parties is on social issues when they don't get in the way of economic issues.And yes,once again i will say it,the news media provides the propaganda to keep both republicans and Democrats brainwashed so corporations can rule.I also like hedges bro ught up a point i have been making the last year or so,to have Fascism you don't need a leader like Hitler or Musselini,you can do it behind the scenes with a small group of billionaires pulling the strings like in the US

Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 4:04:45 PM

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Here he goes again, being beautifully right and obliquely advocating for not voting. You would have thought he would have learned his lesson the last time around. The problem is that he is right and a significant amount of people are not listening to him. He is living on the horns of a dilemma, but consistently advocating for the wrong horn? I certainly don't have the answer but this ain't it. We have no choice but to vote -- however, what happens next?

Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 4:21:45 PM

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I don't think Chris' message is as simple as "don't vote".

His whole point has always been that the People are only being offered candidates that further the corporate/fascist cause. In that light, he is absolutely correct in saying your vote makes no difference.

But, being correct doesn't necessarily mean he wants to see a country where nobody is voting. He also reminds us that, in order to change the system, you need to first defeat the corporate structure that is maintaining it. Only then, will you be able to have elections built on "candidates of the People". Otherwise, you might as well accept the fact that your vote means absolutely zero.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 5:07:09 PM

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Reply to Kevin Tully:   New Content

Kevin, the right to vote was to provide for a peaceful revolution in forming a more perfect union, that is no longer functional for a few decades or more since JFK's assassination. You describe a wish sandwich for solutions. What exactly is a wish sandwich? You sh*t in one hand and wish you had toilet paper in the other. If a peaceful transition is no longer an option what exactly is left? NUTS!

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 at 5:58:05 PM

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Reply to Kevin Tully:   New Content

What happens next in either case is human extinction. Along with most or all of the rest of life on Earth.

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 7, 2018 at 5:53:33 AM

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911TRUTH

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Most of what Hedges writes about with our loss of liberty has happened since the false flag event called 9/11. Yet Hedges refuses to even question the ridiculously simple official story of how it happened and who really did it.

The complete decay of this country that is happening now, and since 9/11, is not an accident. It is WHY the monsters who really pulled it off made it happen. The complete glorification of the military, fanatic nationalism, and fear and hatred for 'outsiders' was needed for all this to happen. And here we are. And this is only the beginning.

Obama and Trump are two faces of the same Wall Street, corporate, military/terror industrial complex coin.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 5:12:02 PM

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I sincerely doubt CH believes the "official" story. I'm not saying you're wrong, but I've just never really seen any real evidence that he does.

Some speakers/writers just choose not "go there" because they don't want to invoke the "9/11 conversation" in the midst of a different they feel more qualified to conduct.

To be clear, I don't share that view myself. I do think that 9/11 is, of course, THE key piece of the puzzle people like Hedges help to assemble. If all the lies and betrayal of that one day were lit up definitively for all to see, it might be instrumental in correcting possibly a whole society.

But, not everyone who touches on the adjacent subjects is prepared to "go there". This doesn't necessarily mean they don't know the truth. It might mean they might have something to worry about if they expose it.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 6:08:21 PM

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Reply to Devil's Advocate:   New Content

Rather than ignoring it, some years ago Hedges ridiculed 9/11 "conspiracy theorists" (his words) in one of his articles. That was very unhelpful to say the least. What he thinks now is anyone's guess.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 6:51:10 PM

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Just like Noam Chomsky has done. In fact, Chomsky has said that it doesn't even matter who really did 9/11, which is completely insane.


In any case, both 'scholars' are cowards, because 9/11 is the foundation for everything.



Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 7:19:06 PM

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Agreed that Chomsky's a lost cause, and 9/11 is the central issue.

I just don't know if I agree that Hedges should be labeled a "coward". He's certainly lost a lot for speaking truth to power, and is still struggling to keep his lines of communication from being shut down.

Does he actually believe the "official story"? I don't know. I will look for anything that can verify that. Out of all the stuff I've read and heard from him in the last 5 years, I can't remember such a stance.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 8:33:58 PM

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Reply to Joseph Raso:   New Content

I wasn't aware of this article. Do you have a link to it?

I would find it disturbing if he really thought that way.

I also would wonder if it's something from the distant past. I remember a few personalities that started out ridiculing the Truth Movement, and pulling no punches, only to wake up later on and support it.

Richard Gage, the founder of Architects and Engineers for 9/11, says he only "woke up" about 5 years after 9/11, when he heard David Ray Griffin talking on the radio.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 8:23:45 PM

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Reply to Devil's Advocate:   New Content

Sorry, it wasn't an article but rather from page 312 of his book The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.

He's relating a story from 2010: "about seventy were peace activists who, as is usual at such events, were joined by a motley collection of conspiracy theorists who believe 9/11 was an inside job, or that Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, who died in a 2002 plane crash, was assassinated."

I remember reading the quote because I like Hedges' writing and was disappointed.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 10:21:52 PM

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But, are you sure those words were being used literally? If you like Hedges' writing, as you say, you know he often inserts sarcasm in these descriptors.

I haven't read that book, so I don't know ultimately if the context is being lost in the excerpt.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 at 5:20:10 PM

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It isn't clear. Whatever the case may be, Hedges analysis of our current state is otherwise brilliant.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 at 7:17:01 PM

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Search for: Jon Gold speaks to Chris Hedges on 9/11.

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 7, 2018 at 6:00:03 AM

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Reply to 911TRUTH:   New Content

Hedges and Chomsky are not scientists, so maybe they could be forgiven ignorance of basic physics, even though they are smart enough to believe climate science. Michio Kaku is a physicist, so he has no excuse, yet he disbelieved man-made global warming at first and still believes skyscrapers can collapse at free-fall speed without demolition. Astonishing. Nearly every progressive / left intellectual has fallen in line with the wholesale fantasy of the official 9/11 "conspiracy theory."

Something else is at work here. Conspiracy research itself has been masterfully politicized, encouraged on the right and discouraged on the left to the point that any acknowledgement of an alternative narrative of any kind lands you smack into right-wing-nut-ville with Alex Jones et al, so to retain any self-respect or even employment in the progressive left, one must denounce all conspiracy "theories" even when they are conspiracy fact, as have Hartmann, Moore, Moyers, Taibbi, Cockburn, Maher, Alternet, and on and on.

And Bill Nye could not be the science guy if he spoke of the scientific impossiblities of 9/11. It's a mass ostrich move.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 at 4:38:09 AM

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All true.

Also true is that there are a number of qualified scientists of all sorts that fail to see the most obvious 9/11 lies. Cognitive dissonance is a b*tch.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 at 5:23:01 PM

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Hedges pretty much says to vote for the lesser-of-two evils: "Which is not to say that, if only to throw up some obstacle to Trump, you shouldn't vote for the Democratic scum..."

But, in fact, he overstates the evil and the unanimity of Democrats. Take Al Gore, for example. Nader supporters, like many of the people who denounce the Democrats now, were sorely mistaken about Gore versus Bush. Gore was a true environmentalist and champion of the fight against climate change.

Even hawkish Hillary was excellent on some issues (e.g., women's rights) and moderate on many others. Her Supreme Court picks would have been OK, maybe even good. On environmentalism, tax policy, gay rights, unionism, education, women's rights, immigrant rights and many others, most Democrats are moderate. There are many good progressive Dems. Unfortunately, they tend not to win in the fight against corporate Dems and the Repug allies.

On stopping militarism, there is a potential alliance between progressives and some libertarians like Rand Paul, including many Tea Party people, who realize that military spending is wasteful and destructive and that we have no business having 800 bases in 70 countries.

The image of a ballot box as a toilet certainly discourages voting.

Hedges ends with a suggestion to "rise up and destroy the corporate structures that ensure our doom." How? He offers no party, ideology, leaders, or banner under which to organize. With no organized replacement, the result would be anarchy. His ideas sound violent. His message is destructive, not constructive.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 7:23:30 PM

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Devil's Advocate

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Reply to Don Smith:   New Content

"The image of a ballot box as a toilet certainly discourages voting."

Or is the image simply an accurate metaphor for what the present system has done to the vote?

"Hedges pretty much says to vote for the lesser-of-two evils..."

Isn't that what you always say, as well? Just sayin'.

"He offers no party, ideology, leaders, or banner under which to organize. With no organized replacement, the result would be anarchy. His ideas sound violent. His message is destructive, not constructive."

Boy, you're really all over the place, aren't you?! When any of us talk about the state of things, do we have all the answers?? Why is it the writers' job to offer the solution?! Reminds me of how people railed David Ray Griffin because all his analysis, as well done as it was, never included who the perpetrators were.

Most truth is simply cold-hearted fact that isn't presenting the answer.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 5, 2018 at 8:45:14 PM

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Lois Gagnon

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Reply to Devil's Advocate:   New Content

Some people just refuse to get off the merry-go-round. It makes them feel like they're getting somewhere.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 at 3:06:52 AM

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Patrick Walker

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Reply to Devil's Advocate:   New Content

If the toilet bowl as ballot box (which I like a LOT) discourages people on the left from voting, it's because progressives/leftists have been AWFUL at capturing our basic political facts. What we need people to know is that Democrats suck (a LOT), but that Republicans are (as Chomsky rightly says), "the most dangerous organization in human history."

Only people starting from this analysis are giving us a basis for fruitful, constructive activism. I think Hedges himself is inconsistent; he rightly (as Don noticed and meant to praise, I think) gives a nod to lesser-evil voting, but given his own portrayal of how bad Republicans are, he should be ADVOCATING for voting for the disgusting Democrats. I think my own phrase captures this best: "choke back your vomit and vote Democrat."

Hedges DOES offer a solution: mass revolt, but he pretty obviously has little idea how to get it going. I personally think we have to start from the basic political facts: that we must vote for Democrats while never for one second approving of the party and that we must base the needed revolt on TORTURING Dems once they're in power. My own preferred strategy actually invokes a movement symbol Ralph Nader and Hedges himself handed us: the rat. I think we must "rat out" Democrats' use of Republican craziness as mafia-like electoral extortion: holding the Republican gun to our heads while reforming their own warmongering neoliberal party scarcely at all. I outline my strategy here and here.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 at 10:41:39 AM

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Devil's Advocate

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Reply to Patrick Walker:   New Content

I do think that the first thing that needs to happen is the truth has to permeate society. Collective will to push back can develop on its own, if the masses have the right incentive and information. Some may call this process "mass revolt". And it happens without necessarily telling people how it should occur.

The job of the writer or speaker is quite often to simply supply that truth. Chris does that in spades.

As for "left" and "right" arguments, I think people need to get back to what these terms really mean, as everyone seems to have lost track of that. You seem to have more right-wingers in the Democratic party calling themselves "leftists" or "progressives" now than you have actual left-wingers.

The terms have been hijacked and bastardized to death.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 at 5:06:36 PM

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Lois Gagnon

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I had the privilege of going to hear Chris Hedges speak in Troy, NY Saturday night. The venue was packed and he was brilliant as always. To not have read and or listened to his learned critique of our present circumstances that mirror past empires in a state of decline, is to be lost in the woods of imperialist propaganda. He is a modern day prophet.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 at 3:16:36 AM

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Patrick Walker

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Reply to Lois Gagnon:   New Content

He IS a modern-day prophet. His analysis in "The Death of the Liberal Class," (based on how corrupt, compromised liberals failed the lower classes in pre-Nazi Weimar Germany) predicted the rise of someone like Trump.

However, prophets are NOT political organizers, and I agree with the people who say that Hedges (outside of his brilliant basic analysis) has little to offer people seeking to organize movement solutions to our woes. I think he fails to draw the correct conclusion from his own analysis of the two parties: that we must put Democrats in power and then torture them--via a movement attacking their corrupt party leaders--into reform. Progressive politicians in the party, like Bernie Sanders himself--do not go anywhere near far enough in emphasizing what villains the heads of the party are. I think only an organized movement can "rat them out," causing their widespread rejection.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 at 10:53:20 AM

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Don Smith

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Patrick (whom I respect) wrote, "we must put Democrats in power and then torture them--via a movement attacking their corrupt party leaders--into reform." I agree with the idea behind that strategy, but -- as you no doubt realize -- your way of expressing it makes it sound a bit crazy. How can you put the Democrats in power if you at the same time are denouncing them as strongly as you do? In fact, this is prescisely why climate change hero Al Gore lost in 2000: Nader supporters regarded Gore as the lesser-of-two-evils. Looking back now, who can deny that was a bad call. Democrat Al Gore was pretty damn good!


Granted, Hillary was way too hawkish, and she was too friendly to Wall Street. She was, in fact, a centrist Democrat in the mold of her husband and Obama. She would have defended women's rights, gay rights, the EPA, immigrant rights, gas mileage standards, and dozens of other issues we hold dear. Most importantly, she would have appointed decent jurists to the Supreme Court.

Stop denouncing the Democrats. It's self-defeating for your strategy. Furthermore, there are many good ones -- Al Gore, Elizabeth Warren, Pramila Jayapal, Tusli Gabbard and most of the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus -- and the ones you call "lesser-of-two-evils" are centrists.



Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 at 2:38:41 PM

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Patrick Walker

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Reply to Don Smith:   New Content

I'm speaking to an audience of progressives and leftists who think of themselves as left of progressives. The fact is, most of us can't stand today's Democratic Party. I think you're wrong that I'm harming the "vote for Democrats" cause by attacking Democrats. It may be futile even trying to get a lot of my audience to vote for Democrats, but I think I'm making the ONLY kind of argument that can appeal to them. Being soft on Democrats only makes them think you're part of the bought-off or brainwashed liberal establishment.

The ONLY question is whether Republicans are too horrible to risk electing. Answering yes doesn't mean I must check my brain, moral compass, and taste buds at the door and start liking Democrats. For example, living in NY, I have the choice of fusion voting, so I can vote for Democrats on the Working Families Party ticket. And I just checked that Cuomo has a big enough leader that I can safely vote for Green Howie Hawkins for governor. That's what I plan to do: avoiding Repugs while giving Dems the minimum support possible.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 6, 2018 at 3:25:08 PM

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